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tv   [untitled]    May 5, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm EDT

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well die. among these letters that are astonishing are from harriette newby to dangerfield. most were illiterate obviously. it's unusually to have them illiterate and we have their letters. and he goes there, really joins brown's band to rescue his wife and children. and the tragic part of it is he's the first of brown's band who is -- he's gunned down in the street in harper's ferry. his body is desecrated by angry whites. 50 miles short of his goal of rescuing harriet. and the virginians collected these letters that he had from harriet that appear to have been on his person and published them. that's how we have them. the governor of virginia published all the documents, and they didn't see any indictment of slavery in these letters. they just published them. you just read these letters that
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are just heart-breaking saying, you know, come save me, dangerfield, because like many virginia slaves of that era, she was scared that she was going to be sold to a gang labor plantation in the deep south, and that's exactly what happened. six months later, she's sold to a plantation in louisiana. so you read these letters, and they're just heart-breaking. but we have them, thanks to the state of virginia. >> you speak about the biracial nature of his band and also his support. he had influential african-americans and very influential white northern americans from emerson and thoreau. but the society -- the secret six, can you speak to that? who actually was funding this? >> right. yeah. brown was not a lone gunman. i think this is, again, a problem the way we remember him. we remember him as this possibly insane figure who this act was
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sort of part of one man's disturbed imagination. well, in fact, this was a full-blown conspiracy. and just maybe your first point about his black support, he, unlike many abolitionists, really sought black support and involvement. you know, really this was a white supremacist nation before the civil war north and south. whites regarded -- most whites regarded blacks as racially inferior, including lincoln, who wanted freed blacks to be resold in africa and central america because they couldn't live as equals to whites, and he's an abolitionist. many were very condescending. their view was blacks were too docile to fight for freedom and leave it to us benevolent whites to care of this issue for you.
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brown completely rejected them. among those he saw support from was frederick douglas. he lived in douglas' home for a time. he meets with harriet tubman. blacks lived with him. he really lived his beliefs in a quiet, astonishing way. as to the white support, the secret six, really one of my favorite parts of the story. an area where there's a little room for humor, they were really parlor radicals. these entransincidentalists and very wealthy businessmen, mostly in the boston area who funneled brown money and guns. and they fed him at salons in new england and brown dines with thoreau and emerson. alcott calls brown the manliest man they've ever met. they're intoxicated by this frontier warrior. it's quite a bit like the 1960s, when you had wealthy folks in
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manhattan hosting black panthers and other radicals. in the end, these people are not, shall we say, profiles in courage. when brown's raid goes bad and they're implicated, one of them is already overseas, three of the others flee for canada. my favorite, garrett smith, checks himself into an insane asylum in new york to avoid prosecution where he's treated with cannabis and morphine and that was apparently the treatment of the day. he comes out declaring that he remembers nothing of the events of 1859, which might well have been true. so really only one of them, thomas higgenson sort of remains true to brown. but yes, he has very broad support from very prominent people, so this really isn't just a, you know, small band of in secret. a lot of people knew about this. >> i have about 1,000 more questions, but i want to open
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this because we did invite you for a conversation. so allow us to take questions from the floor. >> fare. >> fire away. >> my name is peter. i'm the architect at harper's ferry national park. >> one of my heroes. >> thank you for returning to hallowed ground for hosting this event. i was with you in september of 2009 for the 150th, the trek from the kennedy farm. >> right. october. >> october. it is such a wonderful event. i have two questions. when can we do that again? when can the journey through hallowed ground encourage the parks service and other partners to do that once every five years or so? another question is, when are we going to put your book into a movie? >> allow us a segue. >> on the first one, i think dennis leads that march every year. it was pretty raw when i did it
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which was actually appropriate because on the night that brown did it in 1859 with his men, it was wet and cold. so it didn't make for the most pleasant of hikes. but, you know, i found it very powerful. i was staying at a little motel outside harper's ferry, and we finished this whole thing at about midnight. i was sort of in the research phase of my book, but i ran back to my motel and i merely just sort of typed out my sort of experiences that night, blended with the history of what happened. that became the prologue of my book. >> which is just wonderful. >> aside from giving you materials, and i'm sure there's other writers in the room, they put you in the right frame of mind. one of the hardest things about writing history is you're capturing the strangeness of the past but also communicating to a contemporary audience. there was something about that
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night, even just the simple things. the steam coming off the horse as we, you know, walk -- marched in. the clop, the sounds. all of that just, i felt, made me able to write that scene in a way that otherwise from archival search alone would have been more difficult. on your second question, i mean, there have been movies that elude to john brown. some pretty bad ones. "santa fe trail." he's kind of too hot to handle. what do you do with brown? he's not a hollywood hero. he's a very complex figure. here's a guy we would feel was on the right side of history except that he shed blood to achieve his aims. he's sort of a quintessential american with a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. and that's -- i think he makes us very uncomfortable, and that's why i find him fascinating, why i think he's worthy of more study, but i think he poses a challenge.
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it's a very dramatic story, particularly all the other characters, and there's much more romance in this story than i would have guessed going into it. brown's followers are almost all young men unmarried, and they're working it hard with the girls in the entire lead-up, you know. and we have their love letters and we have some wonderful romantic stories. but i think it's a great story, but i am not sure it fits an easy hollywood mold. it's like nat turner, another figure in our history that there's never been a movie about that i know. >> want to go to tim? >> could you talk briefly about the true, organized military battles of the civil war which took place in kansas? >> okay. all right. yeah. in telling this story, i spent quite a bit a time in kansas because brown's career as a militant abolitionist doesn't begin at harper's ferry. he really comes out of the
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closet, so to speak, in kansas, which in the mid 1850s which the front line in the war over whether slavery will expand to new western territories. i think what you're alluding to, which is quite remarkable and surprised me, and i think people outside of kansas and missouri aren't very aware of is five years before the first battle of manasis, you have northerners and southerners killing each other over slavery in kansas in open-field combat with musket and cannon. these are small battles, not huge numbers of people involved. but it really is a preview of the civil war. john brown is right in the middle of it. he's, you know -- he's one of the principal warriors in this really, i guess you would call it, a low grade conflict, maybe more like in iraq than a civil war. it really is to me a fascinating and not forgotten, but not
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recognized nearly as much as it should be. >> i want neil keller. >> yep. hi, neil. >> do you think john brown was -- do you think the bloodshed was necessary to end slavery? >> to end slavery. for those who may -- >> you can count on neil to get right to the core. was john brown right and was bloodshed necessary? again, this is -- i'm not going to dodge that question, but i think this, to me, again, was one of the reasons i wanted to write about this. because john brown really kind of drives people crackers, even leading scholars. you read c. van woodward or a great writer like robert penn warren, they go right off the rails because everyone wants to irnl say he was a monster and a madman or a martyr and a freedom fighter and a hero. there's very little middle ground.
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i personally feel it's a mistake to try to fit him into either box. this was, again, what is so fascinating about him is he raises these really prickly questions. is violence ever justified in the cause of justice? i think we would all agree he was right in recognizing not only that slavery was the great moral wrong in the nation, but that, you know, we needed to address it and confront this issue. and also be uncomfortable with the fact that he dragged pro slavery settlers from their beds in kansas in the middle of the night and slaughtered them with broad swords. there is no way in my view to feel all one way or all the other about john brown. there are many people that do. i am personally not able to do that. he is like every human being. he is an immensely complex figure. while the years i spent researching this book.
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i would not say he is a warm and cuddly guy. then another moment i would think how could you do this? that is part of what i find compelling about him. i'm not just prepared to say all right or all wrong. had to be this way or not. >> judith. >> the greater journey from slavery to abolitionist. you mentioned several things that the northern abolitionists who were averting slavery from the developing nation. but also the misperception of southerners as the great protagonists and beneficiaries of slavery.
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that at point in american history. recently, within the past ten years, there is a film. you also mentioned. a film that came up through sundance and is in distribution is a documentary called "traces of the trade." it is about the brown and wolf family about the greatest -- >> i went to brown university. i know all about the brown family. >> he ran the university and most of the north through the slave trade. and the documentary is available on youtube. it is a phenomenal story.
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i would like to enfold or have your opinion with regard to the greatest sin of slavery. i would like us to be absolved somehow in this little area of the world. >> in waterford, i'll absolve waterford. it was a quaker community. >> could you place the journey in the greater context of the slave trade? >> oh, gosh. i guess what i maybe just to restate. i was watching the leher hour the other night. there was an interesting report on a young african-american with a placard saying "end black history month." his point is we shouldn't set this apart. black history is part of american history. this is all our story. and i guess that's what i was
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saying. that in this era, at least, slavery is so much a part of the national story. and we continue to do this with the south right up to the present in a different way. we still, i think, view the south, at times as northerners do, as an evil twin. we project what a national problems of racism and violence and lack of education, whatever you want. when that happens in mississippi or alabama, it's all over the news. when it happens in massachusetts and michigan, which it happens all the time, somehow it is a different story. i think with our whole history, we have to -- i don't think it should be a blame game. i think we should recognize how much this was a part of our national story. i think we all know this. but when you read the details of it and you read the dred scott
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decision in 1857 in which the majority opinion of the supreme court decision, blacks have no rights as a white person is bound to expect. i think the word african-american is inappropriate for the pre-civil war period because they were not americans. they did not have the rights. even free blacks had no standing. they said the founders never intended them to have any standing. you read document after document like that and you read northern born presidents like franklin pierce and really all the presidents of the 1850s essentially mouthing pro-slavery views. you know, you see the picture differently. after brown's raid, you have massive demonstrations in the north against brown and in support of the slave-holding south because they are scared the union is going to split. they are saying, you are right.
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it is huge. we should stop thinking of this as somehow as a southern story apart from the whole. i don't think that answers your question, but i try. >> joy. >> you referenced going to the places history happened. how important is it that we continue to protect those places? places like the lincoln train station or gettysburg or harriet tubman's home? >> you are speaking to the room. it embraces this. it is hard to people who don't know. maybe i'll answer that because we are all in agreement because these places should be safe. we're history nerds and preservation.
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that's what we care about. i would say when i talk to students, i'm very struck by there is so much you can do on the internet now. it is a remarkable tool. i did it with this book. you can access all these arkans archives online now. i'm struck by how many students think that you can get it all through the computer and you don't need -- i'm talking about students in history classes at universities that somehow you don't need to see the place because you can get everything you need on google and you can even look at it on google earth. i think as we all know you do need to go to these places. every time you do, you find something more. you find things you cannot come looking for. you have a different kind of experience. i would say particularly for the generation coming up that is
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their experience is so mediated in every regard to have real places that they can go and step outside of that laptop experience and be presented with the real places. i just think you can't replace that. of course, yes. save it all. [ applause ] >> on behalf of all of us, i want to thank you for coming this evening. i wanted to especially from the journey through hallowed ground, give tony a small token of our protection. as jen is getting that, what tony was just saying is why we are a team at the journey. i want those on our team to put your hand up.
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beth ericson, our vice president, and jennifer moore and robin myers, the director of educational programs and michelle kellogg. michelle is hopeful you will buy a copy or two or three of tony's books. books, but we are also very blessed to have with us one of our finest, our national adviser, ron maxwell, who's a director and producer. and with whom we were able to do a very innovative and wonderful program with warner bros and his remarkable work on the centennial of "gods and generals and gettysburg" with partnering with national geographic with beautiful maps, beautiful special features, and ron has agreed to stay and sign a few for those who would like a copy of this limited edition box, but most importantly, what tony was just saying, and, joy, thank you
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for that question, there is no other solution than us all working together to raise awareness that once it's gone, it is gone. it's not just the bricks and mort mortar, it truly is our culture, it's the stories, allowing people to step back into the books, the boots and the minds, makes a huge difference in our work with students, so i want to thank you all for coming today, because by your being here, we have been able to raise additional funds for our educational programs and tony, on behalf of all of us, a very small token of our appreciation. >> yes, for the clod of hallowed dirt. >> exactly. >> stolen from -- >> yeah, so we hope -- >> blood of martyrs. >> stay, chat, have a bit more wine and conversation, buy a book, and have it signed, so thank you all for coming. >> thank you. [ applause ]
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all weekend long, "american history tv" joinsous cox communications to show case its history and literary culture. settled in 1889, oklahoma city is the largest city in oklahoma. it has a population of about 600,000 people and is the sooner state's capital. you're watching "american history tv" on cspan3. . [ speaking in a foreign language ] i said my name is blue clark,
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and i said hello, ladies and gentlemen. [ speaking in a foreign language ] i said that my clan is the win clan and my church is big cosita. i come out of cosita town. you're viewing behind me the point for the american indian culture center in oklahoma city. it is one of those monuments, in my mind, that happens once in a lifetime. when completed, this will be the focus of childrens and grandchildrens understanding of who american indians are, whomever passes through here, this will advertise the state of
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oklahoma, this will advertise the united states, this will advertise a major portion of american history, which is indigenous. and on this continent, the vast majority of that history is pre-history for hundreds of thousands of years, if not milennia. native peoples have been in this area for a very, very long time. over time, they had moved with drought or buffalo herds or other reasons, and then other american indian groups came in by force called removal into this region. some came voluntarily into this area from the southeastern united states to avoid the expanding frontier. some were buffalo hunters, some were mixed-blood traders with spanish, german fur traders,
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spanish settlers, french, a few english, other indians, long before any kind of forced removal, and then in the indian removal act, enacted by congress in 1830, that allowed the president to institute policies that would move into this area, indians who occupied the eastern woodlands of the united states, to free that area up for settlement and pioneer settlement. it took awhile to abstain the louisiana purchase in 1803, and in congress the following year, authorized the federal government to encourage indian peoples to enter into this area west of the mississippi. >> why oklahoma? >> this was called indian territory and was established once the louisiana purchase territory was acquired. this was considered to be
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unoccupied. this was considered to be buffalo country, indian country, and unclaimed by only a tiniest handful of non-indian settlers, so it was, in a sense, wide open. it was already occupied by numerous indians, but that barely entered into the thinking of the federal government, and in georgia, gold was discovered in the late 1820s and pressure really jacked up to remove cherokee and other indians, georgia, alabama, and mississippi, and various tribes underwent trails of tears, the most famous usually in art and film is the "cherokee trail of tears" in the late 1830s here into northeastern oklahoma, but many, many tribes have ended up in oklahoma, and after the american civil war, out on the plains, other tribes were
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persuaded to come to western oklahoma for reservations, so you get a great diverse collection of native peoples here in oklahoma. removal varied depending upon the wealth of the tribal members, depending upon the time of year, depending upon who came first, who came last. as an experience, who was in control of the removal, it has many layers of complexity, but certainly, there was terrible suffering for those who came walking through winter storms, through ice, who were stopped by bureaucratic ineptitude, lack of food, no medicine, lack of tents, and you had to cross the mississippi at some point, lack of steamboats, lack of barges, you had to wait a month, two
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months, floods prevented the shipping to move people. some terrible experiences. the usual figure is about a quarter -- about a fourth of many of the five tribes perished as a result of removal, and then once you were here, lack of shelter, you had to start all over again. lack of food, lack of amenities, continued hard times. in my own family, i grew up with stories of the creek trail of tears. my great grandmother, vicey, was carried as a child over the creek trail of tears. we were lower creeks out of cosita and kowita towns. kowita being william mcintosh's hometown, which signed and began
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the creek pressure, and when vicey was carriecarried, i don' exactly if it was late in the 1820s or later in the 1830s, i do not know. no one was certain of her age because there was no birth certificate, obviously, but there are many, many family stories that i grew up with of the creek trail of tears and vicey and then trying to reestablish themselves here in indian territory in the creek country as a lower creek, we were located in the so-called arkans dtrict. she survived, had offspring, and here i am today. i would summarize indian removal by trying to place it in a larger perspective, and that is by non-indians who want equality in the united states, wrapping themselves in the flag, and
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